ITS transitions to cloud printing environment

Green Up NIUThe start of every academic year brings new changes.

This year was no different with the implementation of student printing quotas in campus computer labs maintained by Information Technology Services (ITS) as part of its Green Up Initiative.

This academic year, each student receives 300 free prints (one side of one sheet of paper). Any unused prints at the end of the academic year do not roll over. The free prints are only accessible from printers located in the computer labs.

After students have used their 300 free prints, printing will cost students 7 cents per black-and-white copy and 25 cents per color copy. Another new addition this year is the cloud printing capability through the Huskie Prints, anywhere-anytime printing program.

“Students can install a driver on their computer at home or on their mobile device that will allow them to send a print job to any of the newly posted print stations around campus,” said Cindy Phillips, director of customer service for ITS.

Most print stations are located just outside of most ITS labs.

A printing quota was necessary, Phillips said.

“Every year, the amount of prints students made increased to the point that we were processing over 3 million prints just in one lab alone.  With this high of a demand for printing, our budget only allowed us sufficient funds to cover payroll and the print demand,” she said.

That meant no money for any sort of technological upgrades in the labs or across campus. “ITS lab printers have not been replaced in six years,” she said. “There has simply been no room in the budget.”

The money saved already has started to be repurposed for campus technological enhancements such as moving  toward 100 percent wireless internet access inside academic and student function campus buildings with the eventual goal of having coverage across campus, inside and outside so that users can get from one end of campus to the other without losing a connection.

Additionally, ITS would like to repurpose current labs into cyber cafés across the campus where students can come in with their personal wireless devices and work between classes alone or with classmates while taking advantage of the university-wide wireless access.

Photo of a computer printerThe free print quota provided for students will progressively decrease by 100 pages each academic year until fall 2015 when students will no longer be offered any free printing.

The print quota is also fueled by NIU’s Green Up campaign, which is rooted in a Vision 2020 Initiative focus on enhancing technology-related instruction.

“This is going to be an education process for faculty and students,” Phillips said.

“The provost is working on encouraging faculty to become more comfortable accepting electronic work while we ask students to consider whether or not a specific assignment really needs to be printed,” she added.

“There was some discussion about assigning different quotas to students based on their area of study however the decision was made by the provost area that the quota should be uniform across all areas of study.”

Phillips noted that some labs had been incorrectly charging students for the involuntary cover page that prints with each document.

“We  have identified the problem and are working  to resolve the issue in all the labs, and as of Sept. 4, all students print balances were reset to the original balance of 300 free prints in order to compensate students who were charged for the cover pages.”

Students have requested faster service when it comes to printing speed at the ITS Lab print release stations and improvements are being made. “We’ve been working on installing software upgrades that should help resolve that issue. Recent testing after the software upgrade was applied has shown major improvement,” she said.

Feedback is welcome. To provide an opinion or to receive help in an ITS lab, students should contact ITS via email at its@niu.edu or by calling the ITS Helpdesk  at (815) 753-8100, which provides 24/7 service.

by Constance Ervins

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